Today, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt reanointed controversial anti-public lands William Pendley to be the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The memo, signed by Bernhardt, is the 29th iteration of a redesignation of authority for key Interior Department Senate-confirmable positions, a potential violation of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act that skirts the Senate confirmation process. In response, Western Values Project released a statement.
Statement by Western Values Project Deputy Director Jayson O’Neill:
“Between William Pendley’s 30-year history of advocating for the sale and elimination of America’s public lands to a list of over 50 conflicts longer than a CVS receipt, Pendley is simply unfit to be employed at the BLM, let alone leading the agency. It’s a slap in the face to all public land users that Sec. Bernhardt would again skirt the Senate confirmation process and hand the keys of America’s largest land management agency to a known anti-public lands zealot and self-proclaimed sagebrush rebel.”
“Quite frankly, we’re not sure there is any work Pendley would be legally allowed to do after releasing his mega-list of conflicts. If there is any hope of preserving what’s left of America’s public lands and outdoor heritage under the Trump administration, this conflicted-character needs to be fired.”
- William Pendley released a 17-page recusal list, detailing over 50 conflicts of interest and some 57 entities that he would be ethically dismissed from working on. Pendley’s 278 financial disclosure form, requested by WVP over two months ago, still has not been released, making it is impossible to tell if every conflict has been disclosed or if his financial holdings would require further recusals.
- Pendley was brought into Interior’s fold in late July and granted the authority of Acting BLM director shortly after his hire by Secretary Bernhardt. His appointment was roundly criticized because of his 30-year record of advocating for the abolishment of federal public lands, supporting efforts to repeal the Antiquities Act, and rallying against sage grouse protections.
- Recently, 12 senators sent a letter to Secretary Bernhardt requesting the immediate termination of Pendley’s authority as acting director.
- William Pendley was previously the president of The Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF). Collectively Pendley and MSLF have filed lawsuits against the Interior Department at least 40 times.
- According to the PACER database, William Perry Pendley has represented plaintiffs opposing the Department of the Interior and/or its sub-agencies (the Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service) in at least 25 lawsuits. [Search for William Perry Pendley in PACER Case Locator, accessed 08/15/19]
- According to the PACER database, Mountain States Legal Foundation has represented plaintiffs opposing the Department of the Interior (the Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service) in at least 18 lawsuits. [Search for Mountain States Legal Foundation in PACER Case Locator, accessed 08/15/19]
- Pendley is still the attorney of record for two interested parties concerning the contested Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument lawsuit despite recently claiming to have recused himself from this work.
- A 1984 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the Powder River Basin sale was below-market and implicated Pendley. The GAO report noted that Pendley dined with two coal company attorneys the same day he made a favorable decision regarding the Powder River Basin coal leases. Pendley resigned shortly after the GAO report was released.